Here’s What To Do With Pets During Showings

Seller Tips for Selling a Home with Pets 

Spring equals open house season for real estate, so now is the perfect time to get your place in shape if you plan to sell anytime soon (we’re quickly shifting to a seller’s market right now, if you didn’t know). Part of making your place as attractive to potential buyers as possible means making it look like your dog, cat, hamster, etc don’t even live there. Yes, it’s bogus. We’re pet lovers over here too. But if you can make a few critical changes, it could mean the difference between getting an offer and not so it’s worthwhile to to hide all traces of your furry pals for a bit. Here are some general guideline for sellers who own pets:

Open House Season Will Look Different This Year  

In a non-pandemic year, open houses used to mean an occasional two-hour window where you and your pet might wait things out at the park or go for a ride. Thanks to COVID, open houses are much less likely than individually scheduled appointments for showings (though this is changing rapidly and we’ll know more in the coming weeks and months). That means, you may need to keep your home showing-ready and your pet out of sight more often. For most pets, this will mean removing them from the house, a feat that’s generally a bit easier with dogs than cats (we’ve owned both, we’re not biased!). 

Aside from taking your dog on a park and puppuccino run, consider a few hours of doggy daycare if your dog is into that kind of thing. Cats, well, I’m sorry to say you’re probably going to have to put them in the dreaded carrier for a while. If there are other environments they’re familiar with—like a friend or relative’s home—take advantage of that option. The shorter time they’re in a carrier, the better.

If your cat or dog is showing signs of distress (particularly even after showings are over), it’s a good idea to talk with your vet about some solutions to make this difficult process easier on them.

A Word of Caution

Hosting open houses is stressful. Hosting them with kids, a job, and pets is awful. You may be tempted to make things easier by leaving your pet in the home during a showing. While this may be less than ideal (but still workable) if you need to leave the gerbil cage set up, it’s a bad idea with free-roaming pets like dogs and cats.

Even if your pet is normally well-behaved and good with people, the steady stream of unfamiliar faces and smells in your home (especially if you’re not there to calm them down) can cause unexpected aggression. Home buyers often shop with their kids, and kids can sometimes trigger strong reactions in pets. Note that some homeowners insurance policies don’t cover dog bites, so if this is an issue for your pet, you’ll want to take extra care.

Aggression issues aside, there are many people who are either allergic to pets or afraid of them, and you want your home to appeal to as many buyers as possible. Don’t limit your potential buyer pool by turning off people who don’t like or can’t be around pets.

General Cleaning Tips

If pet odors are a problem in your home, start working on correcting that a few weeks before your open house/showings. Some stains and odors can only be fixed by deep cleaning (particularly fabrics) and you need time to do that properly.

Lighting a candle or having some fresh-cut flowers on the kitchen island is great. Dousing the air with room freshener and the couch with Febreze, meanwhile, is not. Even if those worked to cover up odors (they really don’t), it might make your guests just wonder what the scent is trying to cover up.

Some other basic steps?

Remove all signs of pets by:

  • Ensure marketing materials are pet-free
  • Avoid marketing the home as pet-friendly
  • Repair pet damage to home
  • Deep clean the home before listing
  • Deodorize
  • Clean pet hair
  • Remove stains     
  • If you can’t remove a litter box entirely, make sure it is completely clean (i.e., dump all litter, wash and deodorize, and refill with fresh litter (and don’t forget to take the garbage out)
  • Same goes for canned pet foods—make sure the empty cans are rinsed, but fully out of the house is ideal 
  • Remove all pet gear (leashes by the door, bowls on the floor, the basket of toys); no, most potential buyers aren’t pet-hating monsters, but a blank slate enables them to see themselves in your home                       
  • Finally, just know that this stressful situation is only temporary. Even if your pet is grouchy during the process, it will come to an end and they can get back into their routine. And you can get back into yours!

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